How to Increase Onsite Conversions, Part 2: Tactical Steps

Onsite conversions are key to the success of an ecommerce site, but improving your performance can be tough without a plan of attack. On the previous episode, Sara and Nicole discussed how ecommerce retailers should set their strategy to boost onsite conversions.

After you have your strategy in place, it’s time to get down to business. Now they turn to the tactical steps that lead to higher conversion rate optimization (CRO). In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why it’s crucial to be on the right ecommerce platform for your business
  • The factors behind optimizing site search functionality
  • The importance of customer engagement, such as product reviews, and user-generated content
  • What makes a seamless onsite checkout experience
  • Current online examples of great site navigation, customer service, and more

Full Episode Transcript

Sara: Welcome to another episode of Recommerce. Today I’m here with Nicole, and I’m Sara, the founder of Command C. Today’s episode is going to be a part two of what we started talking about in the last episode which was all about the strategic ways to approach onsite conversion rate optimization. In today’s episode, we’re going to shift our focus from strategy to onsite elements that you want to make sure are in place as the foundation for your conversion rate program.

Nicole: Sounds like a good plan. It’s great to be here. I think right off the bat, the first tactical step is making sure that companies are on the best platform for their business. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

Sara: Yeah. This is so key. It’s the crux of so many challenges and the crux of so many efficiencies. I don’t know that the rest of our list goes in order, but this is by and large the most foundational element of conversion rate optimization.

Being on a platform that is not the ideal platform for you leads to so many inefficiencies. It leads to administrative overhead. It leads to frustration. It leads to not thinking creatively or innovatively about your site because you’re so bogged down in the technicalities. Ensuring that you’re on the best platform that exists for your business is so important for any kind of return on investment that you are going to make in conversion rate optimization.

Nicole: That’s a key point. I’d also point out that we did a podcast on the exact topic of how to decide which platform is right for me a little bit ago, so that’s an earlier episode of Recommerce. Absolutely. Ensuring that you’re on the best platform for your business is the number one foundational step. If I had an airplane with a banner flying around, it would say, “Get on the right platform for your business.”

If I had an airplane with a banner flying around, it would say, “Get on the right ecommerce platform for your business.”

Sara: Yes, absolutely. Let’s keep in mind that we’re not talking about, in this segment, we’re not talking about all of the things one might do with their site. We’re really trying to lay the groundwork and say, “Have these keystones in place before embarking on your grander CRO plan.”

Nicole: At this point, we’re talking about companies that have their ecommerce strategy in place and they are on the best platform for their business. There’s already two big wins in place right here. Building upon that, the next foundational step deals with site navigation and filtering, and categorizing products clearly and personally. I know this sounds like such basic Ecommerce 101, but it’s a little surprising how sometimes we still see retailers that create confusing paths for a very simple thing.

Sara: Often times that’s a symptom of being too close to the business.

Nicole: Good point.

Sara: When you’re coming from knowing your business inside and out, you’re really not in the ideal position to be making decisions about what a front end user who doesn’t know anything about your business is going to experience on your site.

Nicole: Right. There needs to be some objectivity.

Sara: Absolutely.

Nicole: With that being said, the flip side of that coin I would say, is the positive side about being really deep in your business is knowing your customers. I think that there’s two different approaches, not really different, but two different ways of thinking about site navigation and filtering. One is that it’s super crystal clear and it’s very easy to find things. Then secondly, how do your unique customers look for things on your site?

Your site navigation should be clear and easy. It should also address how your unique customers look for things on your site.

Nicole: What I mean by that is, for example…we’ll have a piece of content coming out soon on luxury ecommerce. One example on that was Gucci. They do a fantastic job of showing their collections from the runway, which is very exciting for Gucci followers, and then they say, “Shop this look.” You can navigate from the runway to the precise outfit that has come down the way that you want. It’s the shoes, and the shirt, and the accessories. That’s a really exciting way for a follower of Gucci to then be able to purchase the products. It’s like taking right from the excitement of the show and then being able to buy.

It’s those unique approaches in your business. Nike, for example, they’re going to navigate, they’re going to create their navigation by sports. By specific sports. What you can buy in the tennis department is going to be, even apparel, is going to be very different from what you’re going to buy in running, for example.

Sara: I think it’s also important to note that there’s a fine line here, right? We’re not necessarily suggesting get creative with your navigation. We’re saying know your customers and know how your customers think when they’re looking for your various products.

Nicole: Absolutely. And something that we talked about before that I really love to emphasize is that the mechanics of online shopping are well-established. As you’re doing a financial transaction on your site, that’s not the moment to say, “Hey, let’s try this cool twist on how they enter their credit card.” No, let’s not. Innovation comes from the products and the content around the products and the experience in those elements of your site.

Sara: All right. Moving on, let’s talk about search. This is another key area to really have down well before, again, this larger scale CRO project that you’re going to embark upon. Search is a big craze these days. There’s lots of different features that can come along with search and some of your more advanced conversion rate optimization hypothesis and tests can certainly revolve around adding additional functionality to search. I mean there’s so much exciting technology coming out with search from adaptive search, tools that will rank your results based on how often they’re sold, or other customer behavior, to leveraging machine learning with search to deliver results based on past customer history.

There’s so much exciting technology coming out dealing with site search.

Sara: As a baseline, you want there to be a good search tool in place. By good search tool we mean, we want it to cover the basics. We want to make sure that it accounts for different spellings. Making sure that search is smart enough to interpret what’s being put into the field. Also, accounting for misspellings. That’s pretty important and something that happens quite a bit. A search that’s smart enough to interpret what someone, within reason, means when they enter a search phrase.

Sara: The third foundational element is autofill. At this point, autofill is really important. Making suggestions. Having a search that shows some visuals is really helpful, but again, we’re trying to cover the bases here and we want to make sure that search is robust enough out of the box where it’s easy for people to find what they’re looking for.

Nicole: Absolutely. Just simply put, you’re not going to convert the sale if people can’t find what they’re looking for on your site.

Sara: That’s right.

Nicole: So making sure that that’s squared away is a key step towards onsite conversions.

Interlude: You’re listening to Recommerce, a podcast for ecommerce wearable brands, navigating technical complexity and change. Brought to you by Command C, a development team that saves ecommerce retailers from outdated tech and ineffective operations. With a strong focus on Magento and Shopify Plus. You can learn more about how we help at

Sara: All righty. Next on our list is to address the PDP. The product details page.

Nicole: Great. The main thing to know about product pages is that it’s crucial to tell customers everything that they need to know to buy a product. I would also, while we’re talking on this, I would love to point people toward an article on our site, 22 Rules for Product Pages. It might surprise people that there are so many. We outlined all those steps because indeed sometimes things fall through the cracks.

Regarding product pages, make sure to include an image that shows your product to scale.

One of the main things I see fall through the cracks in product pages has to do with imagery. It’s so important to include an image that shows your product to scale. For example, if I’m shopping for a skirt, and it tells me that the skirt is 30 inches long. Okay, fine, but I don’t have a sense of where is that going to hit me? Is that going to be like I think it’s below my knee, but is it four inches below my knee or right below my knee or all this kind of thing. I really want to see it on a model in order to get a sense of scale. That certainly has to do with other items like bags and different accessories and things like that. What does it look like on the body? That’s one of the main places where I see things drop on product pages.

Then also, just thinking of product descriptions. Have you told the customer absolutely everything that that person needs to know? I recently bought a desk online. It was a desk with a shelf above it. I really needed to know the space from the top of the desk surface to the bottom of the shelf because I was going to put my computer in there. Eventually, over days of emailing with customer service, I figured it out. But, they could have converted the sale right away if I had been able to see the measurement right from the start.

Sara: You’re a committed shopper. Wow.

Nicole: I love this desk! Then the next thing, thinking about tactical steps to get more onsite conversions, is really taking a look at customer engagement. How are you showing that your customers are involved with your brand? Two regular ways to do this – really good, useful ways to do this – are user-generated content and product reviews. There’s been some surveys that show if a product doesn’t have any reviews, it actually really slows people down from buying it. They’re too hesitant to go.

With reviews and user-generated content in mind, how are you showing that your customers are involved with your brand?

Sara: Do you mean if there are no reviews on the site or if there are reviews, but there are zero reviews?

Nicole: I think it’s better to not have reviews at all than it is to put up the option for reviews without a strategy. If you’re going to do reviews, it’s important to know how you’re going to engage customers to leave those reviews. I think we’ve all seen sites where we go to a product page, and there’s a spot to leave reviews or it might say, “Be the first to review.” But if you’ve been looking at the product more than once or so, and you’re not seeing anyone circle around and leave a review, it gets this feeling like, “Oh, maybe this product isn’t what I think it is.”

Sara: Totally. I think, especially for smaller businesses, reviews can be overwhelming. That might work better for your company to leverage user-generated content. Getting people to submit images with a hashtag on Instagram or even social proof in the way of testimonials. But, I’ll tell you, I’ve been doing a lot of online shopping recently and when there’s no social proof, be it a review or testimonial or some sort of user-generated content, I don’t buy. It’s that compelling to me at this point. Especially with a higher ticket item.

When there’s no social proof, be it a review or testimonial or some sort of user-generated content, I don’t buy. It’s that compelling to me at this point.

Nicole: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more and it’s interesting too, one thing that I’m really finding myself is looking at user photos. I think ModCloth was one of the pioneers of that, and I love the community spirit of it. Like, okay, I like this dress, and here it is on five different women. It’s just cool to see what it becomes.

With that in mind, thinking about customer engagement, another tactical step here in the line of serving customers is customer service. You really want to make sure that you have the basics of communication in place on your site. I can certainly say just what you were talking about, if you don’t see any sort of social proof, it really doesn’t feel like you want to buy. I feel that very similar if I go to a site, and there’s no way I can pick up the phone and call somebody, or I can’t chat or I can’t zip an email to someone. Those forms of communications on any ecommerce site are imperative at this point. Also, hopefully, companies want to have those kinds of engagements. Do you know what I mean?

Sara: It goes a long way in terms of understanding and grasping the nature of the company that you’re choosing to do business with. If customer service isn’t in place, then it feels like they don’t get you.

Onsite customer service options go a long way in terms of understanding the nature of the company that you’re choosing to do business with.

Nicole: Absolutely and one of my most favorite examples of this recently was Modern Citizen. They do a thing where they, if you’re looking at, let’s say a shirt. There was a shirt I really liked and it said, “Text us to find out the inventory.” I did and I had a complete text conversation with a representative from the company over the course of an afternoon. I found that they had my size in the New York City store and I’m free to go get it at any time. It was like texting a friend honestly. It was an easy back and forth, and I got the information I needed.

Sara: Man, they would love to hear that. That’s awesome. That brings us to the last, but absolutely not least, item on our list, which revolves around checkout. Making it a huge priority that your checkout experience is clear, communicative, easy, and efficient. What we mean by this is you’re not asking for more information than you need. If you’re asking for any information that is out of the norm, you’re making it clear why you’re asking for that information. You’re showing the user clearly where they’re at in the checkout process and you’re adding any other necessary tool tips.

Sara: I’m going to add a plug here – this suggestion applies to mobile as well. Don’t forget about mobile.

Nicole: Absolutely. I would also just add, please if I can make a pitch to retailers everywhere, please don’t force anyone to sign up for an account before they close the sale on your site. Let them check out. Feel free to say after checkout, “Would you like to set up an account?” Okay, maybe I do. I’m going to be back. But as far as, you just kill the deal when you get to checkout and it says, “Please set up an account before buying.”

Please don’t force anyone to sign up for an account before they close the sale on your site.

Sara: For sure.

Nicole: Thank you for letting me get that off my chest.

Sara: Yes, yes. Any time. That concludes today’s episode. Thanks so much for listening and thanks, Nicole for being here.

Nicole: My pleasure. Thanks a lot.